Aging with dignity is an option

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Editor: Aging is not an option, but what about aging with dignity?

After contributing to Canada’s health and social services for 40-some years, I am afraid to age anymore. I fear one day I too will require so much care that I will be thrown in a human warehouse. There I will wait for my death.

I am afraid of dying in bed with incontinence, in an under-lit room, with regimented routine, receiving impersonal care, with all kinds of unmet or poorly co-ordinated medical needs and void of spiritual supports.

Like many, I too will receive care from underpaid, overworked and insufficiently trained staff. I too will end my life in loneliness.

I am not alone in this predicament. With me, there are thousands of Canadians who are experiencing the same destiny.

When I was young, I needed little in the way of health-care services, but as the most recent stats confirm, as an aging adult, I may need much more health-care services and it may be costly for the governments of all the levels.

In our aging, we seniors have become a liability and a burden on society.

We are responsible for the escalating cost of health care and long-term care. The society comprised of the younger ones doesn’t like it, especially considering that we seniors may have stopped contributing to the society.

We have heard the promises from the political parties to promote home care. We have also heard the cost of long-term care being low as compared to occupying hospital beds. Yet there’s little action.

Of course, home care is still available, but does it meet the ever-increasing demand for services? Do the care and support services meet any national/provincial standards of care, if there are any?

Within the last several years, government supports for community-based services have been biased. People who can’t advocate for themselves get the raw deal. In the past, the political parties have promised about enhancing the community’s capacity, but where is the evidence?

For the last several years, we have known about the upcoming tsunami of aging Canadians, but have any of the political parties done anything other than token funding and rich promises?

I look at the glossy flyers of long-term care homes and feel I can’t wait to go there to live. But when I visit them, it is often another experience.

For the seniors, little things matter. For example, according to a loved one, a staff member complained that during the movie screening times, the theatre goes empty. Little did the young staffer realize that the residents would rather watch favorite movies of their time (i.e. 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, etc.) than today’s high-tech, exciting, action- and crime-filled newer movies.

I live in a society that has little value for the seniors, their lifelong contributions to the society, their experiences and their wisdom. People look at the décor of the senior’s home. They all appear good, clean, and warm. They are satisfied. They feel they have fulfilled their obligations to their seniors.

Long-term care in Ontario and in Canada is a shame to all of us. We value human rights and advocate for it all over the world, but what about the rights of our own seniors to live and die with dignity?

I wonder if some long-term care facilities see their residents as valued customers and the most vulnerable of our society. I feel that as long as there is no incident which may embarrass the owners, many are content.

Recognition of this issue in the recent Ontario’s Budget is appreciated. We, the seniors, hope that the funding will be annualized and follow with appropriate provincial strategies for the care of the seniors.

Naresh James

Chatham

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